Mexico Launches Campaign To Promote ‘Dual Citizenship’ Among Millions Of Legal Immigrants
With little fanfare, the Mexican government has launched a broad-ranging “new strategy” to encourage millions of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. who are eligible for U.S. citizenship through naturalization to empower themselves by seeking dual citizenship.
“The new strategy of promoting dual nationality … will allow our citizens in the United States and people of Mexican origin to obtain significant benefits on economic, social and political matters, as well as to strengthen their ties to both countries,” the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations said in late October.
Ambassador Sandra Fuentes-Berain, Mexico’s General Counsel in New York, explained that the advantages that U.S. citizenship by naturalization offer include “welfare benefits and healthcare, as well as voting and exerting influence over decisions by elected officials that affect their everyday lives.”
According to the Pew Research Center, Mexico is the country with the largest population eligible for obtaining U.S. citizenship through naturalization. In 2013, there were an estimated 5.4 million legal immigrants from Mexico who were eligible to become American citizens. However, the rate of naturalization (i.e. obtaining citizenship)—36%—is only half that of legal immigrants from all other countries combined, the Pew Research Center observed.
Factors that contribute to this low rate are lack of understanding the process and lack of English proficiency, and the high costs ($595 for naturalization and $85 for biometric services.)
Mexico’s new naturalization push comes in the wake of Republican Party presidential front-runner Donald Trump calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” criminals and drug traffickers. Trump’s offensive rhetoric has fueled anti-immigrant sentiments making Mexican immigrants—legal and undocumented—vulnerable to discrimination and even hate crimes.
But Mexican diplomats stopped short of linking the new strategy to Trump’s “racist verbal assault,” as a group of prominent Hispanic intellectuals recently called it.
“It is very important to make Mexican-Americans realize that it’s in their own interest to have an intense civic participation,” new Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Miguel Basáñez told me.
By becoming U.S. citizens, Mexican legal residents of the U.S. would strengthen the growing Latino electoral base which is considered crucial in presidential general elections and in close races.
While some anti-immigrant voices may say Mexico’s “new strategy” is a type of interference into the U.S. internal political process, it appears to be consistent with the Obama Administration immigration policies.
On the occasion of “Constitution Day and Citizenship” on September 17, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation calling on immigrants to become citizens. “It is essential that we encourage individuals who are eligible to take an important step in their American journey and commit to becoming a citizen,” Obama said.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services leads the efforts to encourage immigrants of all nationalities to become U.S. citizens. Ambassador Fuentes-Berain, a high-ranking member of Mexico’s Foreign Service, told me that Mexico’s 51 consular offices in the U.S. work hand in hand with U.S. government agencies. The Mexican Consulate in New York, she said, meets regularly with U.S. immigration officials to “strategize” collaboration on immigration issues.
The U.S. government tolerates but does not encourage as a matter of policy “dual nationality,” which means retaining citizenship in another country. On its website, the State Department warns that “dual citizenship can present a security issue whether to permit access to classified information which affects recruitment, employment and assignments.” In some cases, dual citizenship could disqualify an applicant for a sensitive position in the intelligence community or the State Department.
Critics say it presents problems. “…This is an odd arrangement that challenges the notion that citizenship is an expression of national loyalty. How can a person be equally loyal to two countries?” the Los Angeles Times asked in a 2014 editorial titled “The Problem of Dual Citizenship.”
Yet dual citizenship has been sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1954, the Court ruled that dual citizenship is a “status long recognized in the law” and that “a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both.”
Compared to other issues, dual citizenship has not been the subject of significant debate.
Mexicans are more likely to seek U.S. citizenship if they are allowed to retain their Mexican citizenship as well. For Mexicans, dual citizenship, which was not allowed until 1989, makes them feel loyal to their country of birth, language and culture.
This article was written by Dolia Estevez from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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